The dust has now settled on Samoa’s decision to decline the invitation to tour England, leaving Shaun Wane’s side without a single confirmed fixture for 2024.

To not have any international programme in place is a devastating blow for the players who see test football as the pinnacle, but also the sport.

We all know how internationals have the potential to gain a much bigger reach in terms of audiences and sponsors. When England play test matches on BBC, our team - albeit temporarily – is suddenly relevant in the living rooms of Bristol, Basingstoke and Barnstaple.

We are much smaller as a game without any meaningful, regular international programme – and although we have the welcome return of the Ashes series in 2025 and the World Cup the year after, both of those will be in the southern hemisphere.

As it stands it will be 2027 before we next see England in a meaningful home series when the Kiwis tour.

That is followed in 2028 when the Kangaroos arrive for what will be the first Ashes series on British soil since 2003.

Some may shrug and say, well at least we have got something in place for the future but we are constantly failing to build momentum on this front.

Let’s put the absence of England internationals in 2024 into perspective with the other code where they play five matches in spring’s Six Nations tournament.

That is followed by another four matches at Twickenham in the Autumn Nations Series with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa among the opponents.

Union has known for a long time that the international game has been the key to growing their sport – and looking at the ticket prices, excluding hospitality, it seems like Twickenham is like one big cash machine.

It has felt like rugby league in England has had weak hand to play when it has come to getting Australia in particular to look beyond the NRL and the State of Origin.

That is why it was genuinely pleasing to see them come on board and agree to a programme in advance, with an away and then home series arranged.

But it should be a concern that the Pacific Cup featuring Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, PNG, Fiji and Cook Islands could ultimately end up building strong international rivalries and becoming the old Four Nations – with England left out in the cold.

A few weeks have passed since Tonga departed, so we need to reflect on how that series was handled.

The crowds were not huge, but nor where the gates against the Kiwis in 1980 and 1985 – sometimes it takes a while to build a rivalry and this is just the very start.

Note the aggregate gate for GB's three-match test series in 1980 was 26,187 - an improvement on the combined total of just 13,351 in 1971.

By 2015 that had grown to an aggregate of 70,123 with 6,000 more for the 2018 series - so let's not pretend that 'the game has gone'. 

The appeal is still there with the right approach and marketing. But that is an aside. 

Speaking to coach Kristian Woolf afterwards he re-iterated that it would have been easier to keep those players at home and play the Pacific Cup, involving the aforementioned nations.

But part of his thinking in bring the players 12,000 to the cold and rain of the UK was to give the English game a leg-up. He obviously has fond memories of his three years in England and that probably motivated him to help the competition in this part of the world.

In return he was almost turned into public enemy number one for being mildly critical of a heavy pitch and slower rucks that his players were not conditioned to.

And then bizarrely it was all played out in a contrived England/Wigan v Saints rivalry. I say bizarre as Saints did have five players on England duty – including the skipper for the first two tests.

If that is how you treat those who are doing you a favour, then don’t expect anyone else to be pulling their tripe out to come 12,000 miles at the end of the season.

The Australians’ obsession with their own strong competitions must have been frustrating to deal with over the past decades or so, and you can understand how a strong is often needed.

But I do reflect on the words of RFL chairman Simon Johnson when he derided Australia and New Zealand as “selfish, parochial and cowardly” when their withdrawal prompted the 2021 World Cup to be deferred due to Covid and wonder how that tone from a weak position plays.

But in the here and now, if England do end up playing France let's hope we can be a bit more adventurous with that game and take it somewhere where we can help sell the game to a different audience. 

And if we play more than one game, let's make sure that there is a match in France.

We need to take a responsibility to help grow the game in our nearest rivals and a country that was competitive against England and Great Britain for decades.